We’ve visited New York City numerous times through the years, from a whirlwind weekend of seeing all the highlights to separate guys’ and girls’ weekends, to an anniversary getaway. My wife and I have seen New York from so many different angles, and we have numerous New York City favorites. New York is possibly our favorite city in the world, and earlier this summer we decided to introduce our 7-year-old son to the joys of it and watch him create his own New York City favorites.
We wanted to have a mix of enjoying New York City like locals — our favorite way to see any destination — while letting our son experience the New York City favorites that make the city famous. For us, that meant attending a Broadway show, going up the Empire State Building and seeing the Statue of Liberty, but also spending time in neighborhoods filled with great restaurants, shopping and cool architecture to enjoy as we walked the streets.
Everyone has their New York City favorites. Here are some of my son’s.
Madison Square Garden
My son is obsessed with sports. As he gets older I predict we’ll mix his love of sports and travel more. This past year, for example, we did an NBA Road Trip series where we checked out the NBA scene in three Southern cities. Madison Square Garden bills itself as “the world’s most famous arena.” I thought it was pretty cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at the arena. We were there the day after the Rangers lost a heartbreaking Game 5 in the Stanley Cup Finals, so everyone was a little down. But Colby loved the experience, including seeing the Knicks and Rangers locker rooms. If you or your child is a sports fan at all, I think a tour of MSG is worth a couple hours of your time in New York City.
OK, so we only briefly saw Times Square. We walked a few blocks of it at night after attending “Matilda.” He was pretty mesmerized by the lights. I would never step foot in one of the overpriced restaurants there, but I think seeing the lights of Times Square is exhilarating. Our hotel on the last half of our visit was about 10 blocks away, and we could somewhat see the lights from our room.
We really struggled with the decision of going to a Broadway show. We attend a lot of touring Broadway shows at home, and have been to several in New York City. There were some great ones we wanted to see, but none were appropriate for children. We didn’t want to buy tickets for what every other parent who visits New York City seems to do, “The Lion King.” Thankfully, we read a lot of great reviews about “Matilda.” We weren’t disappointed, and Colby was very entertained. He still talks about the show. We were happy we found a show that kept the adults entertained and was also fun for our son.
Girls like the American doll store, or whatever it’s called. It only makes sense that a sports-obsessed boy, specifically obsessed with the NBA, would want to visit the NBA Store. He loved this place. I thought it was cool, although disappointed it really focuses more on the most popular teams and players. He came away with a Brooklyn Nets shooting shirt, which happens to be his shirt of choice for the first day of school this week.
Empire State Building
I’ve been up the Empire State Building and would have been happy if I never stepped foot in it again. But Colby wanted to go, and we had the CityPASS that included admission, so why not. We went about 9 p.m. on a Sunday and it was packed. We enjoyed the views at night of the city, but not really a fan of the long waits. We possibly should have stuck to the original plan and went up first thing on a Saturday morning before the crowds. But we’re not morning people, and it was cool to see Manhattan at night.
What kid wouldn’t enjoy riding the subway? Colby, actually, who was timid for a while. That goes back to our trip to London a couple of years ago when one of us in our group almost got separated getting on the train. So he was always concerned getting on and off that one of us wouldn’t make it. Eventually, like in London, he enjoyed riding the different subway lines.
I think every boy enjoys riding in a cab. We only ride in them when we travel, but I think he enjoyed seeing the streets of New York go by from the back of a New York taxi. We did learn something valuable about taking a cab. It can be tempting to get in one if in a hurry to get to a destination. But you can’t predict traffic. You can pretty well predict the subway. Sometimes it makes sense to just make your way to the nearest subway station instead of hailing a cab.
Colby saw the Brooklyn Bridge a few times, including going under it on our Circle Line boat tour. But on our last day we walked the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I’ve done it before, and it has remained one of my New York City favorites. You really can’t be the views of Manhattan. The only negative was it turned out to be the hottest day of our five-day visit, so make sure you have water or buy some from the vendors along the way.
Circle Line Boat Tour
We wanted to take Colby to Liberty Island to visit the Statue of Liberty, but I had heard horror stories of long waits. We’re not good at getting our days started early, so getting there when it opened wasn’t practical for us. Part of our CityPASS was the option to take a semi-circle boat tour around the bottom half of Manhattan with Circle Cline Sightseeing Cruises.
The cruise gets really close to the statue and provided some really awesome views of Manhattan.
It was a chance for Stacey and I to sit and relax for a couple of hours while Colby also got the experience of seeing the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan from the water.
Colby is absolutely obsessed with basketball. As we were waiting on Stacey to join us at Lombardi’s Pizza for Sunday dinner, we discovered a basketball court in a park next to the restaurant. For probably 15 minutes, Colby had a lot of fun shooting with a pretty flat basketball he found under a bench. The lesson here is that sometimes with children, the most simple activity can be one of the most memorable experiences.
OK, so I was a little disappointed that he didn’t want to enjoy bagels at Ess-A-Bagel thanks to the Dunkin Donuts next door. But this kid had more donuts in New York City than he’s probably had in the past two years combined. Yes, he got them from a chain, but he was in donut heaven.
Father Demo Square
Father Demo Square in Greenwich Village is one of our New York City favorites. Stacey and I spent a week in an apartment near there for our 10-year wedding anniversary, and spent a lot of time just sitting in the park soaking in the atmosphere. It’s a tiny park that is centered on a fountain.
But it’s next to Joe’s Pizza, our favorite slice in New York. Colby enjoyed running circles around the little park while we sat and enjoyed our slices.
Other favorites included watching a New York Mets Father’s Day game at Citi Field, watching World Cup games in some of the city’s great soccer bars and even checking out some of the art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art.
I’m not sure Colby will actually admit to enjoying his time at the museums, but I do think he enjoyed parts of it.
We love New York City and are happy that we’ve introduced our son to some of our New York City favorites while giving him the opportunity to discover some of his own.